Tag Archives: Opinion

‘It Can’t Be Done’: The Difficulty Of Growing A Jazz Audience : A Blog Supreme : NPR

‘It Can’t Be Done’: The Difficulty Of Growing A Jazz Audience : A Blog Supreme : NPR:

“Well, if education isn’t the answer, what’s the solution? How do we develop and maintain a strong jazz audience?”

Audience development is a complicated issue, and it’s not limited to jazz. Every artist and arts organization is trying to answer the same question. We’ve identified a problem and we’re going to “build” something to solve it. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?”

(Via www.npr.org)

Excellent article. I wonder though if it is really a problem Jazz faces in the United States more. In Japan and I believe in Europe, Jazz music gets as much attention as Pop music. Heck, they even have huge public performances of the music of Final Fantasy! Yoko Kanno and T-Square concerts sell out. 

If Danny Elfman did a concert tour in the USA……..would anyone attend? Probably very very few. A Katy Perry or Justin Bieber concert though……sells out in hours. It’s a sad state of affairs here…..

The Convergence of Owning Music and Renting Music

Digital Audio insider had an article up about Renting and Owning music. I wrote some comments on the site that basically say no, I don’t see it happening. People have been saying this since Napster was out. Heck, Rhapsody has been offering this for a long time…..streaming music. Pandora has been doing it for a few years. And now everyone is excited that Spotify (what a stupid name….as stupid as FaceBook…ugh) is in the US. Renting your music just has never taken off.

I certainly don’t see it happening now that AT&T, and Verizon have capped data usage on mobile devices. Oh, but the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile will fix that right (Bullshit!). And they all now cap your internet usage at home (Time-Warner & U-Verse is capped at 250 gigs a month and so are others). So….that is another hurdle for streaming to contend with.

Basically, I like free things that let me FIND music I like. Like Pandora or a PodCast. I LOVE PodCasts. Single best way to find new albums or even hear great things for free.

Then I will buy that song for $0.99 and own it. No re-occuring monthly fee. It’s mine.


The Convergence of Owning Music and Renting Music:

for rent sign image by TheTruthAbout via Flickr

Earlier in the week, Hypebot pointed to this eMarketer summary of two recent studies about consumer attitudes about owning music vs. renting it:

The first of the two studies was a survey conduced by Insight Research Group on behalf of eMusic that revealed the widely noted insight that 91% of those polled preferred to own music rather than subscribing to it.

There are real differences, both logistical and psychological, between owning and renting music. But I’ll bet that the preference for ownership will decrease as the listening experience for “owned” and “rented” music converges. If you’re using a website or app to listen to music on your computer or portable device, where the files are coming — your hard drive, your cloud drive, or the server of a music subscription service — doesn’t have much effect on your listening experience. And a year from now, even more people will be using Spotify, iTunes Match, Amazon’s Cloud Player, Google Music, and other services to listen to music. The more they do, the more willing they’ll be to forgo actual ownership.


(Via Digital Audio Insider)

Survival In The Music Business

Let’s face it, the economy sucks. And it’s not going to get better anytime soon regardless of what the idiots in DC promise. How does a musician survive then?

Musician Wages.com has an excellent article with some pointers.

My own pointers would be NOT to put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t “just” play Tenor. Or alto. Play as many as possible. You never know when you might get that baritone sax and soprano sax gig. If you can’t afford all the instruments, at least own mouthpieces and reeds that you are comfortable playing those instruments on. For example, I don’t own a Bari, but I do own a bari mouthpiece and reeds.

Another pointer, be flexible in your playing styles. Know how to shape your tenor sound to a good mock Boots Randolph if the gig requires that. Or a more classical style. Not every gig requires your full on Michael breaker 1980s sound.

Another pointer…..double. It is essential. Try to get one or two instruments close to your main instruments level. Theater gigs can help play for rent, etc. You never know when someone is going to need a sub for the latest production of “Wizard of Oz”. Clarinet and flute have to be in your bag of tricks. A double reed will open additional doors.

Another pointer….be fluent with technology. Know a music notation program. Know about DAWs like ProTools, logic, reason, Ableton, GarageBand, reaper, etc. You don’t need to be a certified expert, but know how to open and record something in the program or programs. I see way too many musicians who have no clue how to do anything with technology. They perhaps know how to do three things but that is it. Showing that you can be useful to people in music tech can lead to possible studio work behind the console…..which generally pays more.

Another pointer…..know how microphones work. Seriously, I am amazed at the total lack of understanding of how a microphone works and where it should be placed. Sound guys are generally the worst at knowing where to properly put a mic, mainly cause most of them are rock and roll guys. Know where to put a mic on your sax, or flute. Practice playing into one (you’d be surprised how many people once they start playing drift away from the mic). Know what you sound like through a mic.

There are probably other pointers/tips I’ll add if I think of them, but these are ones that I have used that have kept me employed so far in the business.

Superscope Elevation (Stay away…..zombies!)

So I get the Jamey Aebersold jazzbooks emails. In their latest “Economic Stimulus Sale!” one, at the bottom something got my interest. Elevation Software play-along offer. Hmm…sounded interesting. So I decided to go to the site, www.superscopetechnologies.com and check it out. Downloaded the demo for Mac…..and then the disappointment happened.

$149 for this piece of crap? That is all I can really think of after using the demo. Let me list the disappointment for you shall I?

1. Drag and Drop works….but not for AAC (m4a files) formatted files. So, anything that you get off of iTunes or perhaps have already ripped into AAC format (which is BETTER than mp3) won’t work with the program.
2. The IMPORT dialogue box is NOT mac like at all. I dunno where they got it, but it looks like a Linux box. So, I don’t have access to my sidebar favorites, nor can I use my Default Folder program to navigate to my files.
3. The program crashes like it is in a demolition derby. I mean, I maybe got it to work twice correctly. And I’m still on 10.6.8.

So, why would I spend this much money when programs like The Amazing Slowdowner, or Transcribe! can do what this program does at half the price. And they don’t CRASH! And support AAC files.

People, avoid this software at all costs. AT ALL COSTS. DO NOT GET IT. STAY AWAY. Imagine it is Zombie-fied and going to eat your brains if you download it.

On a side note, I kind of wish Jamey Aebersold would release his play-alongs in a APP format that includes the books and a way to slowdown/speed up, record, and put the songs in other keys. I think Aebersold is missing and/or has missed the boat in this. Instead of selling physical CDs and books, embrace technology. Make an iPad app that has say volume 1, with the tunes, with a metronome. That perhaps you can drop out the piano and bass or whatever. That you can change the pitch and speed of. That sells for the same price in the App store. You’d sell more, and you would ditch the printing and cd costs. The 30% or something Apple would take is easily less than what it actually costs to make the books, cds, and do the packaging.

Sad State Of The “Grammy Awards”

Remember when the Grammy Awards used to hand out awards to great performers. Those days are gone. Seems that the Grammys have axed a bunch of categories

“The people who run the National Academy for Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) have been getting an angry earful from musicians upset by the academy’s decision to drop Latin jazz, Cajun/zydeco, and 29 other categories from next year’s Grammy Awards.

The awards for best Classical and best Classical Crossover albums have been axed, too, along with categories in every musical genre — all part of a major Grammy overhaul, announced in April. But it’s the elimination of Latin jazz, as well as other ethnic-music categories, that has triggered a wave of criticism and protests from musicians and other NARAS members in the Bay Area, New York, and Los Angeles. Big names like Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, and Herbie Hancock have joined the chorus calling on the Recording Academy, as it now calls itself, to reverse its decision..”

So we are going to see the same crap get awarded. If anyone had doubts, the whole LA area now is completely devoid of creativity now. Hollywood cranks out great hits like Jim Carey in Mr. Poppers Penguins, unfunny shows like “the Office”, and now the Grammy awards just wants to pat itself on the back for producing compressed crap they call music.


Mike Rowe On Education and Jobs

This is a great video. It applies to all things, including music. Budgets in states are cutting all kinds of things, like woodshop, auto shop, and MUSIC. These programs are deemed not necessary. Ha! They are totally necessary to provide real skills for students. Who really cares if you can do a Trig problem…..can you take apart a car piece and put it back? Can you change the oil? Can you see patterns in music and notice when a theme happens and when it comes back? Can you hear that you are in tune? Can you keep a beat?

I’m really sad for the kids going through the educational system now. All the money they keep throwing at it and the results (in California) aren’t happening.

State Budget Cuts Night Jazz Band

I am a little amused and saddened by this. The Diablo Valley College Night Jazz Band is having a “Benefit Concert” to raise funds to turn it into a fee based class. Read it again. Don’t understand? Ok, so the junior college has a music department. Good so far right? Ok, and a night jazz band. And it appears that the people who have been in the band for decades don’t want to pay more to play in the band. I mean, they cut it down to a half a unit years ago. I have no clue how they wiggled that through. So, basically, the band members were paying something like $35 a semester to play in a band. But the state was paying for the lights, the facility, oh, and the instructors salary to run the band.

If the state was flush with money, sure, the band sort of brings attention to the school. Maybe attracts high school kids to continue to pursue music. Bring in a big named artist to play with the bands. Maybe do a CD. That’s all good in my book….if there is money for it. Having the same people in the band for years, and years, and decades…..and fudging numbers to get the class to be cheap? Not so good. Why can’t the Math department have Calculus as a .5 unit class? Or all the other departments have classes like that?

I have no sympathy. 90% of the people playing in the night band are not students. Or rather, not full time students at DVC. 90% of them are either retired, full time musicians, doctors, or in a similar situation. Meaning, they could afford to pool their money together to make their “class” a fee based one. So they would have to pay a lot more to use the college’s resources. Boohoo.

What angers me the most is the whole idea of a “benefit concert”. A “Benefit Concert”, according to the dictionary is “a concert given for the benefit of some charitable cause”. How is the Night Jazz Band a “charitable cause”? It isn’t.

There are PLENTY of things that need “benefit concerts” in the area. Like maybe last year when the Mount Diablo School district decided to ax most all of the non-tenured music teachers. So the really good instructors at, say College Park High School, got axed and they floated in one of the tenured people they can’t get rid of (who was doing like elementary music or something?) ito do the bands. They could of used a “benefit concert” to maybe help raise money to support the teachers. Did the DVC Night Jazz Band donate their time to do that or do anything like that? As far as I know…..NO. Oh, but they did make a CD with Bob Mintzer last year. I’m sure ALL the money from that is going to good causes like supporting education and……yeah…….

Suck it up guys….the free ride is over. Or the cheap ride. You all should be ashamed to even use the word “benefit concert” when referring to the band. Sickening.

And “passing hats for donations”? Really? That is just sad.

Rock Band Dumbing Down Music?

I would tend to agree, though the game and Guitar Hero have exposed people to some great, classic music that they would not have known otherwise. I’d rather have kids and people listen to some of the tunes on Guitar Hero/Rock Band than some of these “rap artists” and whatnot.

Also, on a related note, anyone who has Rock Band and the drum set should check out this. You can use the Rock Band drum controller (the newer one that comes with World Tour) with this piece of software and actually play the instrument. Very cool.

Can Jazz Be Saved?

The WSJ has an article up called “Can Jazz Be Saved?“. Basically, the article says that in 2002 10.8% of adults went to listen to jazz, and in 2008 that number fell to 7.8%. In the college market it fell from 19.4% in 1982 to 14.9% in 2008.

I somehow think that there are more factors than the author suggests. I think there is a big fissure between people who want “traditional jazz” and those who don’t really care what type of jazz it is. I know I have encountered the former attitude in several bands I play in, where arrangements by Gordon Goodwin are sort of mocked and some crappy B-side arrangement of some song no one knows (and after we play it we know why) is favored more.

I know my own listening habits have been to go back to the great music of the 70s and early 80s. LPs I’ve been getting in Berkeley that. The new last “album” I bought was Gordon Goodwin’s latest. Not like the Vandermark 5, or yet another reissue and remaster of Coltrane or Miles Davis.

SmartMusic – FAIL!

If you read the archives here, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with MakeMusic/SmartMusic (same company). Their products have a lot of potential, but I think the corporate environment there is messed up.

The current issue I have with MakeMusic is my SmartMusic renewal. About 2 years ago, you needed to have an Educators subscription to obtain a “code” to allow students to get a subscription for $25 a year. Fair enough. Then they came out with SmartMusic 11 and did away with the “code” thing, and offering educators access to their site to be able to track assignments, grades, send assignments, etc. Sounded good in theory, but it never worked right for me at all. And students never used it. So, why am I paying for it then? I simply want to be able to create some SmartMusic exercises for my students, and take advantage of the huge library they have for sightreading purposes.

So, this year, with money being a concern, I did initially renew my account, which was like $130. This was back in January. I’m pretty sure I gave them all the credit card info and what not. Then, the other week, I get an invoice from them saying that my account is overdue. What? Actually, this is to be expected. They pretty much do this every year I’ve had an account with them. I enter all the billing info and payment info online, and they proceed to lose it or misplace it or something. Upon reflection, I decided I wanted to just have a student subscription. Well, “Chris” from their SmartMusic support says that I do not qualify. What? I could set up a new account and order the software and stuff for $30, but since I had an educators account, they would not move me down to a student account even though I explicitly said I did not need all the “stuff” that the educators account had.

So, I cancelled the account. Stupid guys. You should offer SmartMusic for $30 to everyone, and if an educator wants to take advantage of your “services” (if you want to call it that…..I wouldn’t), then they can add on the extra to be able to track students, send assignments, hear recordings, etc, etc.

I really wish someone would buy MakeMusic, gut the management, and actually force them to start updating their products with more features and better user interfaces. Actually, I’d be happy if they just got rid of the management.

Get Off Your High Horse Dood

So, I had my bi-monthly jazz band rehearsal last night. I came to find out that the Bass player and one of the trumpet players decided to quit do to some huff about the Bass player. Long story short, the bass player plays electric bass, and basically, she was loud most all the time. Like boom boom boom loud. I forget exactly what tune we were doing, but we were trying to get a less boomy sound from her, like more mids than bass. To get the boom out. Anyhow, she got totally offended and quit. Whatever. This is just the setup for this post.

The trumpet player. Ok, he is a retired teacher. That is all fine. However, he always has to say this or that about how a tune should be played. Ok, fine, that is all good. It is good to know how Band X did it on recording Y 50,000 years ago. A good band will take that information and maybe use it or consider it while playing. But I personally don’t think that is the point of playing. You are supposed to bring your own take to the song, be it bad or good.

Now, I’ve been trying to bring in different music for the band to play. Like I found this great arrangement of Crescent City Stomp by Kris Berg, and Greensleeves by Greg Yasinitsky. Anyhow, I found out he quit not only to back his bass player friend, but also that he was offended to play such music. WTF? Huh? So is there some sort of standard that he breaks playing these? I mean, he ain’t exactly the world’s hottest player. Most of the time he was back there putzing around and missing notes on charts. I wasn’t expecting to play the tunes every rehearsal, but there is only so many times you can play Shiny Stockings, or Cherokee before you want to gouge your eyes out. Change is a good thing and new is sometimes good. Heck, a lot of the band members liked the variation, especially the rhythm section. Is there some sort of legal statute that was broken when playing these? Heck, we have played (and he has soloed on) a couple of really bad arrangements of tunes (Moondance comes to mind).

I find it rather interesting that when he brought in tunes, they all pretty much sounded the same. About the same level, a good middle school or high school could pull off (something he didn’t like about the charts I was bringing in). Arrangements off obscure albums with bands that no one knows. Charts that you’d play and wish you could have that 4 minutes back because it was just like the last one. Or you now know why no one ever plays that chart.

I didn’t like those charts, nor the times when he ran the band and we basically were forced to suffer a rehearsal with him running it. But I didn’t quit over it. Music is music, and I have an open mind to at least playing something a couple of time, if I like it, great, if not, someone else might like it. It is a group thing, not “we are playing all my tunes like it or not”.

Well, whatever. Seems he wants to ride his high horse to wherever it takes him. Good luck with that. We will continue to play a variety of music without him. In fact, the subs last night sounded a lot better than him. And boy, we played a lot more tunes without him asking obvious questions on the form, articulation, or why something was written this way or that. Must be a teacher complex thing.

I will miss the bass player though…..oh well, you have to do what you feel is right.